Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Science Fantasy



Back when Arneson ran his games, notions of the genres of science fiction and fantasy had not become segmented as they are today. In literature spaceships and aliens would often appear in fantasy tales. This made it easier for Arneson to experiment more with the genre in his Blackmoor games, experimentation which is probably one of the things that made Blackmoor different from many later D&D settings. In his latest blog entry, Robert S Conley identifies Science Fantasy as one of the growing trends of the Old School renaissance.

The best known example of Science Fantasy in Blackmoor is of course the City of the Gods, but already in Supplement II, the Temple of the Frog features aliens, laser weapons and other technology. All of this was apparent in Arneson's early games as well. Empire of the Petal Throne creator Professor MAR Barker had connections with Arneson (whether the professor played in Blackmoor is yet to be confirmed) and may have influenced eachothers creations in many ways, including the science fiction element found in both Blackmoor and Tekumel. According to Greg Svenson, the science fiction element of the game dated back to its earliest days:

"...several of the initial players were playing 20th C types who were transplanted into the Blackmoor world (which according to Wesley and Maker was before my first dungeon adventure), so the Sci Fi link was there from the beginning."

 I wonder if the lack of emphasis on science fantasy in the D20 Blackmoor line might not have been an opportunity missed. It would have clearly defined Blackmoor in a yet to be explored niche. On the other hand, many still feel uncomfortable with combining these two genres.






-Havard

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas! To all my loyal followers and random passers by. I hope this will be a time to relax and enjoy life with those closest to you :)





-Havard

Monday, December 21, 2009

Age of the Wolf Map!


 Looking at the cover for Age of the Wolf, you may have noticed this part of a beautifully rendered map for the Age of the Wolf campaign setting.  As you may remember, Age of the Wolf is set 269 years into Blackmoor's future. A lot has changed during the years that have passed, apparently. From the map alone we can learn that the City of Blackmoor has been destroyed. Boggy Bottom is also marked off as ruins. What has happened to these places? Is it the Afridhi? Or the Egg of Coot? Notice also a new city, Rodhin located in the Spine of the Dragon. I don't recognize it from any of the older maps. You will also notivce that Glendover is misspelled on this map, but I assume that is only a typo. Back to the Ruins of Blackmoor, we already know that Blackmoor would be destroyed in the Age of the Wolf since the announcement of the product called Ruins of Blackmoor. What disaster caused all this destruction to our beloved realm? Hopefully, some day someone will share with us what they had planned for this setting.






-Havard

Sunday, December 20, 2009

[video] Gygax Arneson Tribute

As the end of the year approaches, I thought it'd be nice to share a little Gygax Arneson tribute video that I found on youtube:






















-Havard

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Was Supplement II Arneson's work?


Well, certainly it was, but as it turns out only parts of what appeared in D&D Supplement II: Blackmoor was written by Dave Arneson himself. Over at the Dragonsfoot Forums , people have been investigating which parts of Supplement II were Arneson's. In a recent post, Aldarron sums it like this:

Arnesons material in Supp II;
Temple of the Frog, pretty much straight from Arneson, with light editing by Kask. Marsh's statement that Gygax converted it must be a misunderstanding, generalizing from the rest of Arnesons material (which was somewhat converted by Kask). My reason for saying this is that anyone who has read TotF will be struck by all the non standard FFC like approaches, mechanics and terminology used. There's nothing Gygaxian about it, not even the way stats or lack thereof are presented.

The Disease section was straight from Arneson with only light editing by Kask. (I asked him, see pages 138-40 of Q&A here on DF and a few pages earlier for monk topic). Arneson also wrote a similar article on diseases for the first Pegasus magazine.

The hit location was perhaps a little more closely edited but was also from Arneson.

The Assasin , including the assasination table, was "reimagined" from Arnesonian material to conform to "standard" Greyhawk D&D. (same Q&A with Tim Kask pages). Arneson, on his web page, mentions a backstabbing thief arising in Blackmoor - likely the progenetor of the Assasin, since the D&D thief came from another gaming group and was first written up by Gygax.

The rest of the material in Supp II came from other people.
Apparently, Arneson provided enough material for an entire supplement himself, but other people at TSR considered the rest of the material "unusable". One can only wonder what this submitted, but never published material might have been. Some have speculated that this remaining material was what made it to become the First Fantasy Campaign Supplement. If so, it is great that Arneson with the help of Bob Bledsaw of Judges Guild made the material available. It is interesting that TSR decided not to make more use of what Arneson submitted. It has been suggested that it had to do with the quality of the material, but I suspect it had as much to do with understanding Arneson's ideas, which at times were quite different from that of Gygax.





-Havard

Monday, December 14, 2009

[Characters] The Great Svenny

Today the Blackmoor Blog celebrates the legendary Blackmoor character known as the Great Svenny. Svenny is the character played by original Blackmoor player Greg Svenson ever since he first joined Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor game perhaps as early as in 1970. He played the character actively in Dave's campaign between 1970-1975 and later for a convention in 1976 and a reunion game in 1991.
The Baron of Newgate has a history of countless adventures in the lands of Blackmoor. In an interview at Sham’s Gameblog earlier this year, Greg Svenson revealed that:

 “I participated in literally hundreds of adventures between early 1971 and 1975… I hardly even remember the famous Temple of the Frog and Valley of the Ancients adventures. I know I was there, but they were not as memorable for me.”

Two adventures do stand out in Greg’s memory though: Surviving the first dungeon adventure and the raid on the lair of Fred Funk’s Orc tribe on the 10th level of Blackmoor dungeon.
Today the Great Svenny is the Lord High Regent of the Regency Council of the Kingdom of Blackmoor.
Svenny is currently the Lord High Regent of the Regency Council of the Kingdom of Blackmoor:
“When I started gaming with Dave again in Orlando in 1999, I played Svenny’s son, Sol, although I called him Svenny Junior at first, until I put together Svenny's family history. I am currently playing Sol in an online play by post game (the Tomb of Rahotep in honor of Gary Gygax on the Wayfarer's Inn website). I have also been playing one of his grandchildren, Sven, in [The Grim Winter Campaign]...”





(Discuss the Great Svenny here)





-Havard

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Who owns Zeitgeist Games?


"My name is Dustin. I am the CEO of IMI Labs, LLC, a virtual world development studio and parent company of Zee Gee Games. I was previously the CEO of Zeitgeist Games, Inc, which I sold in 2008"
The above quote is taken from Dustin Clingman's website. I was a bit surprised by this. Granted, Clingman has not been taking part in the promotion of Blackmoor products for a long time. His last post on the MMRPG forum was made on March 10th, 2008, a little over a month after the announcement of the publishing agreement with Code Monkey Press:

"Oviedo Florida -- Zeitgeist Games announced today that it has completed a publishing agreement with Code Monkey Publishing, LLC to assume production of it's existing and future role playing gaming products. "We're very excited to be working with Code Monkey" said Zeitgeist Games President Dustin Clingman. "We've had an outstanding relationship with CMP for years and this is a very natural progression. They're going to be able to give all of our products and customers the proper attention that they deserve -- these are exciting days!"
Clingman further detailed the publishing plans going forward saying that existing products in the Dave Arneson's Blackmoor line would go to print in rapid succession and that the company had already begun work on a revision of the Core Campaign materials for D&D 4th edition while it continues to support its existing d20 products."
One question that arises is what happened to Arneson's shares in the company. From what I understand, Arneson was also a part owner of Zeitgeist Games, something which most likely was what made the publishing of Blackmoor possible in the first place. Had Arneson previously sold his shares to Clingman? CEO or not, Clingman introduced himself as President of Zeitgeist Games as late as November 2009.

While the quote from Clingman's website states that he sold ZGG, but is the owner of Zee Gee Games, the Zee Gee Games Website states that this is the same company that simply changed name:
"Introducing ZeeGee Games!
07/08/2009

Zeitgeist Games becomes ZeeGee Games. Same great people, new easier to pronounce name! Check back for more information!"

 I guess the gaming industry is a complicated place!





-Havard

Disease in Blackmoor


In the latest entry of the Dungeons and Digressions blog, ze bulette talks about disease in D&D. The article mentions Supplement II Blackmoor as a good resource for information about this phenomenon. Sure enough, on page 52 of Supplement II, the following diseases are detailed:

  • Grippe
  • Bubonic Plague
  • Cholera
  • Malaria
  • Small Pox
  • TB
  • Typhoid Fever
  • Typhus
  • Yellow Fever
  • Adv. Leprocy
  • Crud
  • Spottet Fever
I am not aware of whether disease was a common phenomenon of Blackmoor campaigns. So far I have not seen any accounts from the original players mentioning it, nor does it seem like a particularly heroic element to a story. Still, the rules can come in pretty handy as can be seen in the previously mentioned blog.

Of course, it would be wrong autmonatically linking something to Blackmoor because of its appearance in Supplement II. Beyond Temple of the Frog, many authors contributed to Supplement II. Editor Tim Kask wrote the following on Supplement II:

"TotF was the only part of BM that was Dave’s alone. In fact, if the whole of the book were analyzed, Dave wrote the TotF segment, and I wrote about 65 or 70% of the rest. Gary  [Gygax], Brian [Blume] and Rob [Kuntz], and Terry [Kuntz], too, contributed the rest. Some of the ideas might have been Dave’s, but the execution, expansion and explanation were ours."


 So where does that leave diseases in Blackmoor? I guess that's up to you! :)





-Havard

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Supplement VI: The Majestic Wilderlands


It's been all over the blogosphere these last few days, but I wanted to mention it as well. Written by Robert S. Conley, this supplement brings the Wilderlands to the Swords and Wizardry system. As Moritz mentions in his blog, it should be easy to convert to any pre-D20 D&D edition. Blackmoor first saw print as Supplement II for OD&D. Having The Majestic Wilderlands be marked as Supplement VI makes for a nice connection between the two worlds. The connection between Blackmoor and the Wilderlands goes back to the First Fantasy Campaign in which Blackmoor was linked with Judges Guild's house setting through the Valley of the Ancients.


Edit: Conley has started a discussion of this product here.

Havard

Friday, December 4, 2009

My Very Cool Followers!



Its been nearly two months now since I took my first steps into the blogosphere. I had no idea what I was getting into at the time, but hey people are reading this! :) As of now I have 35 entries posted and 35 followers (36 including myself, hehe)! I am a little humbled by this support though. Will I be able to produce the sort of material you will be interested in reading? I hope so! Some of you are "friends" from various internet communities, but others I have no idea who you are. I am happy that you are here though!



I guess the point of this post is simply to say thank you for reading my blog and all of the comments you have added to my entries! That really makes it worth doing this! :)









-Havard

Thursday, December 3, 2009

C&C Society Setting



In a blog entry from the 20th of Novemer this year, James Maliszewski writes that:
"Both Blackmoor and Greyhawk have at least part of their origins in the Domesday Book map of the Castle & Crusade Society of the International Federation of Wargamers. Issue #13 of that periodical included an early version of Blackmoor, well before OD&D was ever published."

The Castle & Crusade Society was a chapter of the International Federation of Wargamers and was formed in 1968 by Gary Gygax. In the First Fantasy Campaign, Arneson writes that he reserved a remote spot on the IFW's Castle & Crusade map of the Great Kingdom. The Great Kingdom is ofcourse the basis of Greyhawk's Great Kingdom and also the Great Kingdom of Blackmoor, which Dave Ritchie turned into the Empire of Thonmia in the DA series and beyond.

What is known about the original C&C World? At the Acaeum, Rob Kuntz describes how he was listed as King of the Great Kingdom. This is reflected in the Blackmoor timeline even today, as it is stated that Blackmoor was founded by King Robert I of Geneva.

Maliszewski further describes how the C&CS World can still be seen in both Greyhawk and Blackmoor:
"Echoes of this reality can be seen in the existence of a northern realm of Blackmoor within the World of Greyhawk and of a "Great Kingdom" in each -- a formerly good and noble realm that fell to evil and despotism and against which several nations rebelled. Likewise, there's also a Duchy of Ten(h) in each setting, whose name, legend has it, derives from its existence in section 10 of the C&C map, which was parceled into "land grants" to be given to C&C members to develop on their own."

The C&CS World map was roughly based on North America. More information about this setting can probably be learned from the Domesday Book, the C&CS Newsletter. Issue #13 has the first known printed information about Blackmoor.

 
An original map of the town of Blackmoor from #13 of the Domesday Book can be viewed here. A revised version of this map appears in the FFC.





Illustrations: Top: Reworked illustration of the Domesday Book Cover by Kevin Mayle. Bottom: Original Domesday Book #13 cover.



-Havard

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

One Month Left?



According to the recent press releases from CMP/ZGG, the lisence agreement with WotC expires at the end of the year or early next years. This could mean there's less than a month left for those of you who are interested in getting legal Blackmoor pdfs and havent done so yet. Code Monkey's Website has been problematic for ages and today I couldnt even access their store. You can get most of the pdfs in stores like drivethru.com, rpgnow.com or paizo.com. Drivethru/RPGnow seems to have lower prices than paizo does for this line of products. Robert Reed mentioned that there would be a 20% discount at some of the stores.

 
 





 

 
 





Havard

New Look!


Today I am proud to present the new look of the blog! Much is the same ofcourse, but we have a new logo in the style of the could-have-been Age of the Wolf line for Blackmoor 4E. This doesnt mean the contents of the blog will shift towards more D20 oriented entries though. I intend to continue trying to keep the blog balanced between old school and new school material. Also, so you wont forget the old logo:


 










Have a nice day!

-Havard

Friday, November 27, 2009

New Campaign: The Brotherhood


Last week, I started a new chapter of my campaign, called The Brotherhood. Ten years have passed since the War with the Afridhi broke out. Much has changed in Blackmoor since then. A new king has ascended the throne, and even if the war has ended, it is as if a shadow has fallen over the kingdom. In the City of Blackmoor, a conspiracy has been formed. Known only as The Brotherhood, this secret society of influential citizens are working towards a single common goal: To dethrone the King and establish a Republic of Blackmoor.

 Three men suspected to be part of the conspiracy are:

A high ranking priest of Fornaus, seeking a severing of all ties with the Church of Thonia.
A City Guard Lieutenant seeking to reclaim his lost noble status.
An Elite Thieves Guild Spy posing as a small time merchant.

-Havard

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Poul Anderson's birthday!

I just noticed on the Grognardia Blog that today's Poul Anderson's birthday. Anderson was as most of you know a great inspiration for both Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax.

So, happy birthday Poul Anderson! :)





-Havard

The Piazza Phenomenon


In May 2008, someone at Wizards of the Coast decided they wanted to reorganize their forums. An unfortunate consequence of this was the decision to merge all of the "Other Worlds" forums, that is forums dedicated to settings no longer supported by WotC. Some of these forums were quite dead, but several including Dark Sun, Dragonlance and Mystara were highly active. Others, like the Spelljammer Forum had their small group of loyal fans. The forums were focal points for fan communities of varying sizes. A merger of the forums would result in everything being thrown into one big pot, it would be difficult to find topics you were interested in etc etc. Furthermore, the fans were not warned of this, but a few days in advance and there was seemingly no way of reversing the process either. Frustration lead to action. Fans of different settings, all now found themselves without a "home". Joining forces, these fans set up a forum of their own, which they named The Piazza.

There were other D&D fan forums out there, most dedicated to one setting or to specific editions of D&D. The Piazza's focus was on multiple settings independent of preferred ruleset. It was a huge success! Roughly a year and a half later, the community now has over 500 members and extremely active forums. Moreover, the site is characterized by a highly friendly atmosphere. This might be surprising since the group might have reason to feel bitter about their treatment by WotC. However, the focus has not been complaining about the past, but rather about building somthing new. Lately, the forum has also attracted several prominent game designers, such as Monte Cook, Tim Beach, Colin McComb, Allen Varney, Trampas Whiteman, Andrew Steven Harris, James Mishler, Geoff Gander, Robert S Conley, Aaron Infante-Levy, Adam Miller and others.

In May 2009, Ashtagon, The Piazza's highly dedicated webmaster, made the Blackmoor forum (which had started out as a subforum for Mystara and Greyhawk) into a fully independent forum alongside that of the other worlds. At this point, almost 700 posts have been made in the Blackmoor forum alone. If you havent done so already, go and check it out! :)










Havard

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blackmoor Themes




Here are some themes which the Blackmoor Setting lends itself well to explore:

Hope and Despair
Blackmoor is surrounded by enemies. These all seek to destroy the young kingdom, hating all its values. Together they could easily crush Blackmoor. However, the enemies of Blackmoor are not allies among themselves. This is what gives Blackmoor a fighting chance. It is important then, that Blackmoor is something worth fighting for. A realm of justice, honor and valour, in a world of corruption, greed and deceit. And there is hope, that perhaps Blackmoor could defeat its enemies, one at a time, and thus make the world a better place.

Heroes
Blackmoor is known for its legendary characters. The North is a place where young men and women come to prove their worth and seek out fortune and glory. One day some of them may even be counted among the King's Companions.

Sword & Sorcery
Unlike the later TSR settings which sort of grew into a genre of its own, Blackmoor is closer to the Sword & Sorcery genre started by authors like RE Howards and which was still widespread in the 1970s. I will get back what some of that means further down.

Importance of Humans
Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Docrae and other races exist in Blackmoor, but humans play a dominant role in this setting. The demihumans only have minor realms in the area, while there are many human kingdoms. Some of Blackmoor's most dangerous enemies such as the Thonians, Skandaharians and the Afridhi are also human.

Chaos vs. Order – Cities vs. Wilderness
Whereas Good vs Evil a central theme in Tolkien's Middle Earth an many of the worlds inspired by it, Sword & Sorcery settings often focus on other concepts such as Chaos vs. Order. In the world of Conan, Cities represent decay and corruption, lies and deceit. It is the wild and barbaric where one finds the truly noble qualities. Blackmoor also represents order, while surrounded by The decandent Great Kingdom of Thonia to the south, the fanatic Afridhi to the west and the bloodthirsty Skandahar to the North. You also have the extreme form of decadence with the Duchy of the Peaks and Chaos made manifest in the Egg of Coot. Similarly you have idealized barbarians in the form of the Peshwa as well as Marfeldt the Barbarian who is a friend of Blackmoor.

Cthulhu Mythos – R.E. Howard style
While this isn't clearly expressed in Blackmoor, there are hints of darkness remaining from an older age, just like in REH's Conan writings. Dark Gods and sinister cults may be found in the deep corners of the world. The Egg of Coot is a prime example of this. The cult of the Frog is an example of the many evil cults that may be encountered. In Lovecraft's visions, the horrors drive men insane. In REH's works, they exist mainly to be defeated. Chaos and Evil can destroy the weak, but the strong and noble can defeat these forces. This is ofcourse at the center of Blackmoor.

Ancient World
Another trait shared with Conan, Blackmoor is appears more as an ancient world than a medieval one. Thonia seems similar to Rome or the early Byzantine empire. The Afridhi also have traits borrowed from the ancient Persians. Creatures of the Lost World may still be encountered here, such as great lizards or creatures from the Ice Age.

The North
The region of Blackmoor is known as the North. This should have significance. In my campaign, I made the climate more like that of northern Europe, and did the same with the fauna. Since Blackmoor also has an Ancient World feel, Wooly Mammoths, Wooly Rhinos, Saber-Toothed Tigers and Great Eagles are some of the creatures that may be encountered in this setting. This works even better if you use the assumption that Blackmoor is set in Mystara's past.

Technology
Technology is another feature of Blackmoor that is not so often seen in traditional fantasy settings. It is mostly linked to wizards. They create Golem-like warriors and clockwork body parts. Other such wonders stem from the Valley of the Ancients. The Egg of Coot may be a source of technology as well. Its technology is a dark one though, combining technomancy with necromancy, thus enhancing its undead servants.










-Havard

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hobbits of Blackmoor

"...we could call [Mello] a Hobbit back in those days, before the Tolkien family objected)." -Greg Svenson

Like most D&D worlds, Blackmoor has its share of halflings. In the D20 line there are two races of Halflings, one type simply called halflings and the second, the Docrae. The regular Halflings are, true to the source quite similar to those found in Tolkien.

Dustin Clingman has the following to add:

"Well they are much more prone to travelling than Tolkien's hobbits. In fact, some of the largest distributors in Blackmoor are owned and operated by halflings. That doesn't jive with Tolkien. I would also suggest that they are more prone to a 'larger view' of the world rather than just focusing on Booh and South Pim."


The main halfling settlement, Booh, is a Large Town of 2700 inhabitants. The town is dwarfed by the huge and ancient watch tower which gives the town its name. The town is a typical halfling one, with beautiful gardens and in no short of foodstuffs and fermented beverages. A large system of caves is found beneath Booh, used by the Halflings to store food and for military purposes. The largest population of Docrae has also settled there. Ramshead is another Halfling Town (pop 1000), where Philo is Sherrif. South Pim has also been reported to have halfling inhabitants. IMC Kenville is also a Halfling town, just because the name sounds a bit Halfling-ish.

The most famous Halflings are Philo Holbytyn, Mello Feathertoes and Timothy Curlytop. Mello, originally played by Rick Johnson, is described by Greg Svenson as the "mightiest of halflings". Known as the worlds tallest halfling, he worked closely with the Blue Rider (played by Bill Heaton) and the two worked hard to prevent Nichol's merchant Mafia from taking over Blackmoor Town in their days.

Currently, there is an ongoing discussion about Blackmoor's halflings in this Piazza thread.








(Illustration by ballerinakgurl)

-Havard

Sunday, November 22, 2009

THE NEW LANDS - THE FUTURE OF BLACKMOOR?


In the Code Monkey Publishing press release of November 16th, Robert Reed mentioned a contingency plan CMP has had in place for the last two years should the WotC lisence not be renewed.

That backup plan is 'The New Lands', a new setting with ties to Blackmoor. Apparently, seeds to the setting have been planted in earlier products and the MMRPG.

What do we know about this new setting? the CMP Press Release suggests it will contain various material produced for Blackmoor during the ZGG era which does not belong to WotC. Robert Reed mentioned Classes, the Docrae Race, and Skelfer Ard the magician of legend.


Fan discussions since then have raised concerns about splitting the campaign between two settings. Also the name "New Lands" has been criticized for being too generic.

Furthermore, ZGG's subsequent press release revealed that things were a bit more complicated. What is owned by WotC and what is owned by ZGG is not clear at the moment it seems. Also, relations between ZGG and CMP are unclear as their agreements also expire early next year.

Will the New Lands setting be the future of Blackmoor? Will it ever see the light of day? Only time will tell!













Havard

GETTING REVIEWS!



My German friend Moritz (aka glgnfz), of old shool and Dragonsfoot fame, is now among the followers of this blog. He has been kind enough to make a very nice review of my blog in his own blog, Von der Seifenkiste. Moritz writes:

Gibt's ja nicht! Da schreibt mein norwegischer "Buddy" Havard einene Blog und ich weiß nix davon. Neben dieser Lese-Empfehlung werde ich den Blog natürlich auch in meiner Blogroll ergänzen müssen, denn Havard ist ohne Frage DER Experte für alle Dinge, die die alten TSR-Settings MYSTARA und ganz besonders BLACKMOOR angehen. Der Blog landet direkt auf meiner Leseliste.

Da kann mein Fazit nur lauten: LESEN! LESEN!! LESEN!!!


Thanks alot Moritz! :)

Havard

Obituary: Richard Leonard Snider

Greg Svenson was kind enough to provide me with Richard Snider's Obituary:

Richard Leonard Snider
Mr. Snider, age 56, of Mint Hill, died Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at his home. Born August 29, 1953 in Albuquerque, NM, he was a son of the late Leonard Alfred Snider and Elizabeth Moody Snider. Mr. Snider was a self-employed landscaper.

A prayer service will be held 11:00 a.m. Saturday, November 21, 2009 at St. Luke's Catholic Church.

Survivors include his wife of six years, Najwa; and eight siblings, Paul, John, Clare, Richard, Kathy, Mary, Tom and George. In addition to his parents, Mr. Snider was preceded in death by a brother, Peter.

You may join in celebrating the life of Richard Leonard Snider by visiting his memorial at www.MeM.com. Through the personal Guest Book on this site, you are invited to share your thoughts and memories with his family. Arrangements by McEwen Funeral Service - Mint Hill Chapel, 7428 Matthews-Mint Hill Road, Charlotte, NC 28227 (704-545-4864).

Published in Charlotte Observer on November 20, 2009








Havard

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Richard L. Snider Has Passed Away

I am sad to have learned that Richard L. Snider passed away earlier this week, on the 17th of November. Cancer is believed to be the cause of death. Richard and his brother John were members of the Midwest Military Simulation Association in the 1970s and the Sniders became two of the original Blackmoor players. In Dave Arneson's campaign, Richard played the Cleric who became known as the Flying Monk. Richard was also active in making other contributions to the campaign and an entire section in Dave Arneson's First Fantasy Campaign is dedicated to Richard's additions to the game.

Richard also ventured into game design himself. Together with Dave Arneson, he co-authored Adventures in Fantasy(1978). In 1983, Richard created the game Powers & Perils.Richard was also a Sci-Fi author, having written about 35 novels, although only one, The Leather Rose, was actually published.

In recent years, Richard still expressed an interest in publishing RPGs, though attempts to bring back Powers & Perils on a commercial basis were blocked by Wizards of the Coast. In a post on the Wayfarer's Inn in 2007, Richard stated that he would be interested in bringing his creative ideas to the computer scene in "a computer mega-opus".


May He Rest in Peace.






Havard
(Thanks to Greg Svenson and Bob Meyer for providing additional information for this entry)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A MINIATURE OF ME?

I will try not to become too self-centered in this blog, but reading Badelaire's blog entry about Havard the Dwarf Warrior put a smile on my face amidst all these bad news about Blackmoor. I hope the young Dwarf makes it to Blackmoor one day, maybe dropping by Mount Uberstar. I know he would be happy there!











Havard

ZEITGEIST STRIKES BACK?



Seems like the final word has not been said concerning the Blackmoor lisence. Today, Zeitgeist Games made the following announcement:

Given the ruckus this original mail triggered, I think a bit of clarification is in order.

At this point, Zeitgeist has been in negotiations for a renewal for quite some time. It's been radio silence for a while and it's not prudent from a business standpoint for anyone to wait around for the chance that a renewal will come through. In the end, if Zeitgeist is able to secure a renewal, we'll determine how to proceed from there.

So, from the factual department we have the following:

1. Blackmoor still has the best fans of any campaign setting
2. The Co-publishing agreement between CMP and ZG is expiring in early 2010
3. The future of Blackmoor RPG publication remains uncertain, but ZG is still pursuing and interested in renewing the license with WotC.
4. Blackmoor is a trademark of WoTC and the majority of the proper references within the 3rd and 4th Edition are the property of Wizards of the Coast.

Beyond that Zeitgeist Games would like to express it's thanks to CMP, the writers of books and episodes and of course, the fans for helping to keep Dave Arneson's world and legacy alive.

Sincerely,
Zeitgeist Games,Inc,
Dustin Clingman, President


What does this mean for the future of Blackmoor? WotC has not shown much interest in continuing any of their lisenced properties over the last few years. I wish Zeitgeist Games the best of luck in their efforts, but I would think that they would need a pretty big ace up their sleave to be able to get anything out of WotC. Still, if any part of the settlement between WotC and Arneson has been transferred to ZG or the Arneson Estate, anything is possible.

I also wonder if the statement regarding the future cooperation between ZG and Code Monkey Publishing will affect CMP's recently announced plans about the New Lands setting...


Stay tuned for more!



Havard

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

LOST COVER REVEALED

Yesterday we learned that there would be no more Blackmoor products from Zeitgeist Games/Code Monkey Press. Today I'm taking a look at what might have been.

Knightime Studio's Jim Pinto was art director for Zeitgeist Games for about two years. In his blog, Jim reveals his last work for Blackmooor, one which he did for C.A Suleiman as a favour:



According to Pinto, this was the cover that was supposed to be used for the so-called Blackmoor "2nd Edition". 2nd Edition was the temporary term used for the campaign setting later known as Age of the Wolf. Note the title "Sign of the Cross" on the cover. Most likely this title would have been replaced by Age of the Wolf at a later stage.



The cover looks fantastic! I find it interesting that they have departed from their classic Blackmoor Logo. Also, the decision to use five illustrations rather than just one which has been typical for the 3E era Blackmoor products. The Five images are believed to be place holders for the final art. Jim mentions that some design changes were made to the final version, but that this pretty close to what was supposed to be the final version.

Also, notice to the map on the back cover...








Havard

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

WHO OWNS BLACKMOOR?



Yesterday's announcement that WotC will not renew their contract with Zeitgeist Games over the Blackmoor lisence, preventing any future Blackmoor products from Zeitgeist Games/Code Monkey Press has created quite a buzz on various gaming forums.

One question many have asked is the question of who really owns the Blackmoor lisence. I might not be the final authority on this subject, but this is what I have found out so far:

Dave Arneson's Estate:
Dave stated that he owned the First Fantasy Campaign (FCC). This booklet was published by The Judges Guild, but Bob Bledsaw later transferred the rights back to Arneson. The FFC contain the early documentation of the setting, including early maps etc. Arneson has also for many years distributed D&D Supplement II on his website and has apparently been allowed to do so by WotC, though it is hard to tell whether this was a friendly gesture, ignorance on the behalf of WotC, or if it was part of some agreement between the two parties.

Wizards of the Coast:
WotC own the rights to the Blackmoor Trademark. I believe they also own the contents of the DA Modules, although what the ruling is on the material which exists in both the DA series and the FFC is anyones guess.

Zeitgeist Games/Dustin Clingman:
According to CMP's Robert Reed (Mynex), Clingman owns the rights to various elements that were added to Blackmoor during the 3E/4E era (2003-2009). This includes the halfing subrace called Docrae, the mysterious wizard Skelfer Aard, the 3E classes and probably other rules specific items. Code Monkey Press announced that they intend to make use of this in a future project labeled The New Lands. It is perhaps surprising that none of these additions were not retained by the Arneson estate.

Whether this division of ownership will be a disadvantage for Blackmoor in the future is hard to say. The biggest factor in such a future will most likely be WotC. It is possible that they could be interested in publishing modules based on the classic Blackmoor locations, though their disinclination to renew the lisence can also be seen as a continuation of a similar treatment of the Dragon, Dungeon, Ravenloft and Dragonlance lisences.






-Havard

Monday, November 16, 2009

END OF AN ERA?



For a while now, fans have been worried about the lack of news on upcoming Blackmoor products. This was just posted on the Blackmoor Gmail list:

Blackmoor licensing is looking like it's going to end as Wizards of
the Coast does not appear inclined to renew the license come the
beginning of the year.

There was also developmental issues with Age of Wolf. Contractual violations by all on the project save 2 artists. It boils down to people forgetting they're working for someone on contract, not themselves or their vision.

Between these 2 items Age of the Wolf as it was initially envisioned is not going to see the light of day I am sorry to say.

HOWEVER...

We knew eventually Wizards would not renew the license, we were obviously hoping for another year or two, but it is, what it is. So we have had a contingency plan in place for the last 2 years.

It's been mentioned of the 'New Lands' we were going to add to Blackmoor for some time now, a number of hints of that were made clearer to those fortunate enough to be able to play in the 4e MMRPG campaign...

Well Wizards doesn't own everything Blackmoor from the 3.5 era... notably the classes, the Docrae race and a number of other things that made Blackmoor new and interesting. Those belong to Zeitgeist and Dustin Clingman... who has been nice enough to offer continued usage of those items NOT Wizards.

So, the new campaign setting will be in the New Lands and have a number of Blackmoor flavorings in it. Such as the classes and the Docrae Race and even Skelfer Ard!

More on this over the coming days, weeks, and months.



With the above issues on Blackmoor and for the holidays, all Blackmoor PDF's in our store and on RPGNow are marked at 25% off!

This sale is effective now through the end of the license (early next year).

W. Robert Reed III
Mynex


Too early for me to comment beyond what is said here. Just thought I should share this with you right away.





-Havard

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Old School and New School Material




Fans of Blackmoor come in many categories. As with most D&D fans, many preferences are determined by the point in gaming history when you were introduced to the game/setting. Roughly, there are 3 versions of Blackmoor:

1. Original Blackmoor: This version of Blackmoor can be learned about in the First Fantasy Campaign, D&D Supplement II (the original Temple of the Frog, in particular), through stories from Dave Arneson's campaign and to some extent by looking at the other material available to Arneson at that point such as the OD&D rules, Chainmail etc. A few more obscure documents are also available from this era, such as the adventure Garbage Pits of Despair and the Domesday Book articles (issue 13 IIRC).

2. BECMI Blackmoor: This version marks the return of Blackmoor to D&D and is found in the DA1-4 modules. David Rithcie and Dave Arneson are credited for the modules, though only Ritchie is credited for DA4. DA5 was written, but remains unavailable.

3. D20 Blackmoor. I'm inlcuding both the 3E and 4E books in this category for now. It is clear that Dave Arneson was heavily involved in the production of those books, though many other authors also got their chance at describing the world of Blackmoor.

Among those who begain to learn about Blackmoor from the early days, there has been alot of talk about finding out what is the true Arneson content in these sources. The original material, which is exclusively Arneson's is believed to be the most true to Arneson's vision. I have found these discussions extremely enlightening and I love discussing Blackmoor over at the OD&D Forum.

However, I have come to see Blackmoor as if it were a real world. The various types of Blackmoor material are all the sources we have to what that world is like. Finding out about it is like the work of a historian researching the history of a country. He will have to decide which sources are the most credible and which are less so. At the same time, he cannot afford to ignore any of them since some subjects are not even touched upon by the sources most close to the events occurring. This is why I love reading through all Blackmoor books, both old and more recent ones. And I have to admit, I dont only look at how much Arneson was involved in writing a particular book, but also what I think would be most fun for my players. :)






-Havard

Saturday, November 14, 2009

DUCHY OF THE PEAKS PART IV: THE PEOPLE



THE PEOPLE
The People of the Duchy of Peaks are mostly of Thonian stock, descendants of the so-called Unwanted, who left the Empire in ca 700. Their features are darker than that of the nobility of Blackmoor. Some have more exotic features due to interbreeding with slaves from distant lands. The society is feudal, with the population divided into nobility, serfs and an unusually large number of slaves. The majority of the population are slaves of course and many of the others live under fairly harsh conditions in the various mining towns of the Duchy, being driven hard by the nobles. Their misery becomes even more apparent when it is contrasted by the life in Starport, where public spectacle, debauchery, wild parties and various decadent forms of entertainment. Use of drugs and the general unhealthy and decadent ways of these people have made them somewhat dim-witted.








-Havard

Sunday, November 8, 2009

PROMISED LAND PREVIEW

Rafael asked me to post the intro for the upcoming new season of his legendary PbP:

21th day of Asum in the year 1032 of the Northern Calendar. Night.

Four years and two days after the conquest of Starmorgan by the forces of the Free Nations.





The kingdom of Blackmoor stands surrounded by enemies.

To the west, Westryn raiders and demons roam the plains of Hak.
Though they haven't yet dared to attack the rebuilding cities of New Duchy,
it's only a matter of time until Tenlish blood will be spilled again.

To the south,the forces of the tyrannical Great Kingdom have taken advantage
of the Free Nation's sudden weakness and are lying siege to Blackmoor's southern cities.
It might not be long, and even mighty Dragonia will fall.

And to the north, an icy stormwind over the sea, The Egg of Coot lets its armies advance.
The town of Blackmoor, destroyed.
The town of Glendower, burned by a raing of black fire.
The city of Maus, sunken into the sea and its citizens eaten alive by mermen
from the darkest depths of the shallow ocean.

A high prize is paid for the freedom of mankind.
A prize so high in blood that it seems unsure if the brave people
of the Northern Marches will be able to pay it much longer.

Blackmoor is in need of heroes.
Now more than ever.






The "Company of the Maiden" is summoned to the Kingdom of Blackmoor's
ancient capital, the city of Vestfold, by the prince regent himself.
Members of the old Imperial guard, the best of the North's remaining knights,
all cled in red armor, lead you into the great dining hall in the old king's
ancient city house, first erected by the time Vestfold's most perilous enemy
was not the Egg of Coot, but the devil-worshipping followers of the Id.

In the dining hall, lit only by the dim gloom of fresh candles,
three men sit around a big round table, made of the Druj Forest's best wood.

The red knights order you to remain standing and bring big and burning coal pans
to the table, so you can see who awaits you at this late hour.
However, you are surprised to find that none of the men sitting in front of you
is actually Prince Mordred:


Instead, you behold, from left to right:

Dressed in black, leaning backwards with his big boots on the table,
as if this wasn't the very royal throne room, but some wayside inn,
the famous rogue Rowell, called "The Blade".

Next to him, grinning from one ear to the other, Zuki,
your loyal travelling companion, and, so is the word, second one behind Rowell
in the criminal organization known as "The Coven".

On the higher seat usually reserved for the king of the Marches alone,
his face pale, yet his eyes narrow in anger and discomfort, bishop Garamond Bolitho,
highest-ranking cleric among the civilized people north of the Misauga river.

To the bishop's right, his hands weaving an invisible web into the thin air as he watches you
with the same fascination a spider would watch a fly approach its nest,
a figure paler and ghastlier than even Sir Garamond at this nightly hour.



It's seems it takes more to kill me than just the wrath of a bearman and two magic blades...



The figure next to bishop Garamond chuckles maliciously, as it leans forward its horned head,
and for a moment your blood in your very veins seems to freeze:

The fourth man sitting there on your own king's table is none but your old enemy,
the Westryn sorcerer Gorileth!


TO BE CONTINUED ON FEBRUARY 1st, 2010!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

THE NORTHERN LORDS



The First Fantasy Campaign mentions a nation known as the Northern Lords. David Ross identified these with the Eastern Skandaharians (Raiders to the East). Unlike their Western Cousins, the Raiders to the East have on occasions allied themselves with Thonia or Blackmoor against Western Skandaharians and have been counted among the forces of good. The Northern Lords have a less friendly relationship with Archlis though, and have been known to carry out raids against that city.

My impression from reading David Ross' work is that Thorsen is a Northern Lord who currently dominates both the Western and Eastern Skandaharians, though it is probably only a question of time before The Western Skandaharians rise against Thorsen. Thorsen's City, Borkshold is most likely located in the lands of the Raiders of the East.

David Ross also writes:
Borkshold has a mead hall with a big loot chest: 3000 gp and 4500 sp. The area has some kind of great shaggy russet-furred beast, probably from a bear but maybe a warg or even a mammoth. Only Thorsen has successfully brought one down (whatever it is).


Relationship with the Merrow:
Meremen are said to have a quarrel with the Skandaharians. It is unknown whether they distinguish between the Eastern and Western Raiders, but most likely they don't. I wonder what the Skandaharians may have done to offend the undersea races.










Havard

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

DUCHY OF THE PEAKS - PART III




DUCHY OF THE PEAKS TIMELINE
0
Empire of Thonia Founded
Emperor Robert I founds Blackmoor as the northernmost province of the Thonian Empire

500
Rogue Mages settle in the Superstition Mountains, founding the Duchy of the Peaks.

700
The Unwanted begin settling the lands west of the Misauga River. Some of these Unwanted settle in the Duchy of the Peaks.

815-896
Mage Wars rage in the Province of Blackmoor. Many Sorcerers find refuge in the Duchy of the Peaks.

925
Unwanted living south of the Duchy of the Peaks declare their lands as an independent Duchy, the Duchy of the Peaks.

970
The Duchy of the Peaks makes contact with the Egg of Coot.

980
Lord Whitehead becomes the new Duke of the Peaks.

994
Marfeldt the Barbarian begins his massacre of the Duchy of the Peaks, reportedly reducing its population by 30%.

997
(Winter) The Ran of Ah Foo betrays the Egg of Coot. The Duke of the Peaks sides with the Ran of Ah Foo.

1015
The Duchy of Ten is occupied by the Afridhi. The Duke of the Peaks attempts to reach an understanding with the forces of Toska Rusa.

1020
Duke Whitehead marries an exotic dancer named Sonia Sholako. Through the use of her charms and magic, she is soon able to gain complete control of the Duchy of the Peaks.

1023
Duke Whitehead dies under mysterious circumstances. Donia Sholako becomes the Duchess of the Peaks.

1030
The Present. The alliance with the Afridhi has proved to be a poor one for the Peaks and the general level of conflict in the North is causing economic problems for the Duchy. Rumours of civil war and general unrest in the realm is spreading.






-Havard

Monday, October 26, 2009

DUCHY OF THE PEAKS - PART II



HISTORY
The Superstition Mountains got their name from the rogue magic users who settled there many centuries ago. These were the original founders of the Duchy of the Peaks and they claimed the lands between the Misauga River and the Superstition Mountains as their own.

Much later, around the year 700, they were joined by a people called the Unwanted. These were dissidents fleeing persecution in the Thonian Empire. The Duchy offered to protect these people, but in the end the majority were turned into slaves. Many of these slaves were used to construct a line of forts along Thunder River.

The lands to the south of the Duchy of the Peaks has also been settled by these Unwanted and when they declared their own realm, the Duchy of Ten as an independent Duchy, some of the Southern Lands of the Duchy of the Peaks were lost to the newly formed neighbouring realm. The Duchy of the Peaks accepted this, seeing the chance of making a profit on this new political situation.

Men from the Duchy of the Peaks made contact with the Realm of the Egg of Coot later that same year. The Duchy attempted to play the Egg, the Duchy of Ten, Thonia and the Peshwa against eachother and has seemed to successfully avoid getting drawn actively into conflict itself. They rely on bribes, shifting alliances and clever diplomacy to stay out of war and make a profit instead.

In 985, Marfeldt the Barbarian arrived in the Duchy. His visit would prove disastrous to the realm. Disgusted by its culture, the Barbarian went on a rampage which reputedly significantly reduced the population of the realm.

The former Duke, known to some as Lord Whitehead was perhaps not the most clever man, though he was said to have lead men into battle personally, even though he mostly tried to keep his realm out of wars. At an old age, he married the exotic dancer named Sonia Sholako, who through the use of her charm and magic was able to manipulate the Duke into handing over the realm to her. She has remained the ruler of the Duchy since the death of the former Duke.

Unfortunately, the Afridhi invasion and recent wars has been problematic for the Duchy as the markets for their gemstones has dried up. The Duchess has been forced into an agreement supplying the Afridhi with Pikemen from the Peaks, though she has seemed reluctant to follow up on the arrangement. The economic troubles the Duchy has had, in recent years, have made the barons push their vassals and slaves harder, making the country ripe for revolt.












-Havard

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

THE DUCHY OF THE PEAKS - PART I




Introduction
Lately, I have been doing some research on the Duchy of the Peaks, one of the most neglected realms in the Blackmoor setting in terms of game supplement coverage. One can only wonder if it is due to the fact that the nature of the realm lends itself too well to mature content that it has been left out of recent supplements, or whether the same mechanics which help the Duchy avoid getting drawn into wars that is at work. Note that while I try to stay true to canon, I will be taking some liberties to give some room to my own creativity. Also, this should be considered a work in progress. Finally a word of thanks to David Ross and Andrew Theissen. Their prelimiary work has been very useful.

DUCHY OF THE PEAKS
Location: Northwest of the Kingdom of Blackmoor.
Population: 50.000(?)
Languages: Thonian.
Government Type: Monarchy.
Industries: Mining (Gems), slavery, magic
Religion: Faunus (if any)
Alignment: Any Chaotic
Notable Sites: Starport (pop. 15,000), capital city.
Important Figures: Sonia Sholako (MU11), Duchess of the Peaks, the Gin of Salik (MU 20)

DESCRIPTION
High up in the Superstition Mountains lays a realm known simply as the Duchy of the Peaks. The Duchy was founded by rogue magicians from the Thonian Empire. It is from these magicians names like the Supersition Mountains and Starport, the name of the capital have their origin. The lands borders are formed by the Superstition Mountains to the West and North and by the various brances of Thunder River to the South and East. This is a decadent realm of slaves, prostitution, wine, drugs and sexual escapades. The Duchy also boasts excellent Pikemen and some of the most powerful magic users of the North can be found here. The main industry is mining and many of the smaller towns of the Duchy are mining towns.

Starport, the capital, is one of the largest cities in the region with a population of about 15.000. It rests heavily fortified, high up in the mountains. A large number of Castles and dungeons can be found in the city, which is constantly changing to adapt to the needs of its population. The people who live in Starport are protected from most troubles in life, though their reliance on drugs and a generally unhealthy as well as immoral lifestyle does take its mark on the population.







-Havard

Thursday, October 15, 2009

DEMONS OF BLACKMOOR II: TIEFLINGS




One of the most controversial elements in the 4E First Campaign Sourcebook for Blackmoor was the inclusion of Dragonborn, Eladrin and Tieflings. These races have never previously been mentioned in any Blackmoor product and were certainly never used in Dave’s campaigns.

Tieflings were created by David “Zeb” Cook and given their name by Wolfgang Baur and first appeared in the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix in 1994. In the 4th edition they became one of the core PC races and were redefined as a separate race “whose human
ancestors made a bargain with devils to increase their power.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiefling)

In the First Campaign (4E) Sourcebook it is stated that the first record of Tieflings dates back a century or so, but that they have become more numerous over the last 30 years. While it isn’t specifically stated, connecting the appearance of Tieflings to the mage wars seems likely.
While Tieflings have never been mentioned in older Blackmoor products, demons certainly belong in the setting. The great presence of demons in Blackmoor’s history does perhaps not make human demon alliances of various sorts unlikely?







-Havard

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

DEMONS OF BLACKMOOR


Evil is very much present in the North. Adventurers exploring the darker places of the region risk encountering the darkest of evils, the Demons of the Fiery Pyts (Hell). Demons cannot normally exist on the Prime Plane unless summoned by mortals so it is surprising that so many of these darkest of creatures exist in the North. Many of these demons were called to Blackmoor in during the Mage Wars (Year 815-896). With the intensity of the battles between the spellcasters of the north, many desperate mages sought any means to ensure their victory in this bitter conflict. Ancient scrolls detailing the secrets of demonology were brought out from dusty vaults and once again put into practise. Some such pacts involved humans breeding with the infernal creatures, giving birth to children with demonic blood in their veins. The Mage Wars were not the first time demons were seen in the North however. In the deepest underground lairs and in the darkest forests, creatures exist that have been living their since before the men of Thonia began exploring these lands. Some believe these creatures are older than the race of Men itself. The Wizards Cabal has worked hard to purge the North of demonologists. Many practitioners of such arts have been executed over the last decades and many forbidden scrolls and tomes have been burned. Still, there are masters of demonology out there, summoning demons and using them to undermine the powers of law and good in Blackmoor.

Demons in Dave Arneson’s Campaign
There are several accounts of demons from Dave Arneson’s own campaign. Back then, the only type of demon existing was the Balrog, so that is the term most often used. In the encounter tables from the First Fantasy Campaign, there is a 5% chance to encounter Balrogs in desert or mountainous terrains. In Rob Kuntz’ account of Robilar’s Journey to the City of the Gods, Robilar’s meeting with a Balor is described; a battle which almost cost Robilar his life:

“Suddenly, the light grew, like an approaching lantern in the dark of night. But then it expanded to fantastic proportions; at the same moment there issued a scream from
inside which sent fear into him. The light had become a blazing fire, with smoke issuing before it and pouring out of the aperture and onto the ledge. Robilar stepped back as a
flaming figure taller than himself leapt onto the ledge. In one hand it held a flaming sword; in the other a whip dangled, curling back and forth by the ministrations of the creature's
ever-flexing wrist.

Robilar faced one of the most feared enemies of legend, and one he had never chanced to combat in the past: a Balor. Its wings spread high and wide and then its baleful eyes pierced him. Robilar winced, avoiding those eyes. He gripped his sword, awaiting the demon's rush. Its flames, even from the odd distance of ten feet between them, was painful to endure. Robilar thought of Mordenkainen. He did have a levitation spell...

The Balor leapt. It was an incredible feat, for it adjusted for Robilar's dodge by using its wings to glide. The fighter swung at empty air. The creature landed upon the metal ledge with a sharp thud. Robilar wheeled left, attempting to flank it. There was a cracking sound. Robilar thought of ducking, but the thought came too late. He felt a tug and he moved involuntarily. His sword arm was wrapped in the whip and he was being dragged towards the demon!
As Robilar struggled with the creature he thought of every wrestling match he'd won, from Greyhawk City to Narwell, to the courts of Ivid the Mad himself. But this was an inhuman strength he'd never encountered, and even his girdle didn't seem to matter. Robilar was pulled closer until the smoke and flames were about him. He screamed, and wrenched at the whip. A
sword cut through the smoke, barely missing his head. He had felt it pass--and too close. He let go of his own sword, heard it clang to the ledge as he took firmer hold of the whip. This
steadied him for a second, but there was that damn flame again. It seemed to be feeding on him, growing more powerful as he remained in it. He grew faint, numb; and he barely felt his hands blistering while noting the distinct smell of burning leather--hisgauntlets. His eyes swelled shut and he gasped as the flame heated his armor, branding his body.

He was roasting! The accursed thing was roasting him! Robilar desperately tugged at the whip. He could feel it give a little; but his grasp was slipping fast. His knew that his hands were charred; and he mentally fought to hold on--to tug. Robilar arched his back and planted his feet. He tugged upwards with all his might. He screamed as he did so. The whip broke with a loud snap. Robilar tumbled backwards andfell from the ledge, cutting through the cool air like a stone. Unable to concentrate on bringing his boots to work, he plummeted toward the street below. Toward death”
-Rob J Kuntz, Oerth Journal #6


The term Balor is used here, since the term Balrog was removed along with the other Tolkien terminology in all but the earliest versions of D&D. Things looked fairly bleak for Robilar, but he was saved by Mordenkeinen, played by none other than Gary Gygax:

“Mordenkainen had been preoccupied with searching for secret doors for some time after Robilar ascended. Failing to find any, he had returned to his vigil of watching above. Minutes after Robilar had landed on the ledge, he had seen the smoke, then the flame. He was in the process of casting his levitation spell when a body appeared and fell
groundward.

Mordenkainen adjusted the verbalization in time and cast the spell upon the body: it slowed but did not stop. It was all Mordenkainen could do to control the spell effect, bringing the body of his companion, who he now recognized, to a less than perfectlanding on the pavement below, where it tumbled and rolled for a few seconds afterwards. Mordenkainen approached a dazed and burnt fighter. He shook his head in dismay.”
-Rob J Kuntz, Oerth Journal #6


Original Blackmoor Player John Soukup played a Balrog in Arneson’s first campaign (although Arneson has later denied that he was a Balrog, just a powerful evil character, see below) Soukup’s Balrog appeared in the first Blackmoor game Greg Svenson ever played in. The Balrog, working for the Egg of Coot, had been terrorizing Baron Fant and the Baron had sent handpicked men, including the then inexperienced Svenny after the enemies. The entire army was killed, leaving only Svenny (barely alive) to be mocked by the Balrog. (http://blackmoor.mystara.us/greg01.html) It has been speculated that this is the same Balrog who later fought Robilar in the City of the Gods. Soukup’s Balrog also joined forces with the Great Svenny against Funk’s Orcs in the Blackmoor Dungeon:

“The Soukup brothers were actually players in the original campaign. Dave said they "were just one of the first bad guys." John Soukup played the balrog in the first adventure into Blackmoor dungeon and, again as the balrog, joined the good guys in an attack on Fred Funk's orc tribe on the 10th level of Blackmoor dungeon later in the campaign, his balrog character died on that adventure and the Great Svenny had to be dragged out by his companions (down to 0 hp). These are the two adventures I have the clearest memories of from among the 100's (?) I participated in in the early days.”
– Greg Svenson


It is interesting to note that Soukup Balrog joined forces with Svenny. Is this an indication that not all demons of Blackmoor are evil, or simply another example of evil turning upon itself?









-Havard

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

THE EGG OF COOT


[Image:Mock Cover module, by Havard]

The Egg of Coot is perhaps the most infamous of Blackmoor’s enemies. Dave Arneson describes the Egg, humorously in the First Fantasy Campaign.

The following is my own interpretation of what the Egg:

Nature of the Egg
The Origins of the Egg of Coot are a mystery. Some scholars believe that it is one of the remaining servitors of the Outer Beings. In the Age of Blackmoor, these servitors are referred to as Elder Demons, and once dominated the entire continent. The Egg appears as a huge globe of mossy gray flesh and eyeballs and mouths randomly scattered across the slimy surface. The Egg is buried deep under ground and almost never moves. Tunnels beneath the fortress known as the Egg’s Nest lead to the Chamber of the Egg which its most trusted servants use to contact their master. The Egg is the definition of Evil. It is highly intelligent and communicates with its fanatical followers through Telepathy.

The Egg has powerful magical powers. It is also a master of technomancy, but the technomancy used by the Egg is a different form of the art than what is practised at the University of Blackmoor. Fusing technology and necromancy allows the egg to created technologically enhanced zombies. Its highest ranking servants are technomantic Liches.

The Egg is also able to produce magical items including:

Juggernaut of Doom
This powerful War Machine is similar to regular Juggernauts and may travel through forested areas without any movement penalty due to huge cutting blades constantly swinging along its sides. Anyone approaching the juggernaut from the sides must save vs Dragon Breath or suffer 3d8 points of damage. The Juggernaut of Doom may carry up to 50 humanoids.

Wraith Blade
These wicked Bastard Swords are enchanted with the Vampiric Regeneration ability (the wielder heals Hit Points equal do damage dealt) which is usable once per day. However, points regenerated this way must be recorded. Once the total number of HP recovered from usage of this ability, the wielder becomes a Wraith himself.

Wraith Crossbow
These heavy Crossbows may fire once per round due to Repeting technology and magic. Long tubes reach from the Crossbow to the bolt quiver.

Wraith Mantle
These technomagical heavy mantles have the Etherealness ability similar to the potion of the same effect.

Potion of Poison
As the magical item of the same name.

Motivation
The goals of the Egg are difficult to grasp for mere mortal minds, but sages have some theories:

The Egg is Evil in a cosmological sense. It is the ultimate manifestation of selfishness at the expense of others and as such sees Blackmoor, a force of good, as a threat to its philosophy. Unlike the Afridhi, the Egg is not Chaotic, but perhaps closer to Lawful Evil, trying to force everyone and everything into submitting to its will. This is why someone like Marfeldt the Barbarian is willing to aid Blackmoor in the struggle against the Egg. It is also possible that the Egg through some precognition has recognized Blackmoor as a possible threat to its existance.

The Egg is interested in magic and technology. It may be what brought the Beagle to Blackmoor in the first place, but it has not been able to retrieve any technology from the City of the Gods itself. Rumours that the humans of Blackmoor have been able to retrieve artifacts from that City is of great interest to the Egg.

The Realm of the Egg
The Realm of the Egg is a place filled with sinister disorienting mists. Large towering structures can be seen surrounded by smaller ruined and abandoned buildings. Cities and towns appear desolate, although there are creatures lurking in the shadows. The land was raised from the sea and some of the structures seen were originally built by Merfolk

The Egg’s Nest is an impenetrable fortress. Colossal rocks enforced by rusting steel bars and huge iron doors are some of the most prominent features of the Nest. Going deeper underground, the halls are a mixture of metal rails, cold rock, mushy swamp like growths covering some of the walls and slime dripping from the ceilings.

Thralls of Coot
The Egg’s servants are known as the Thralls of Coot. They are fitted with a symbiote which make them completely under the control of the Egg. Under certain circumstances, the true nature of the Thralls can be seen. The Thralls get a bluish glow to their eyes and their faces become twisted. These features can be hidden, but become stronger when the Thralls are within the Realm of the Egg. The Champion of the Egg, known as Moorcock the Slayer is the ultimate Thrall of Coot. He was originally a Skandaharian Warrior, but now he has fallen under the control of the Egg. The loss of one of their greatest warriors has created enmity between the Skandarians and the Egg. The Ran of Ah’ Foo is another of the Egg’s creations, but one who betrayed its master and left for the Duchy of Ten. It is possible that the Egg

Egg and the Valley of the Ancients
Being a master of technomancy, the Egg is certainly interested in the artifacts coming out of the Valley of the Ancients. It is possible that it was in fact the Egg which caused the FSS Beagle to crash, drawing it as close as possible to its own realm for further studies.

The Spawn of Coot
The Egg is able to create miniature versions of itself known as Spawn of Coot. The Spawn is intimately tied to the Egg, and there is a telepathic bond between the Egg and the Spawn. At the early stages of the Spawn, the link extends to life force as well, so damaging the Egg will also hurt its spawn. Most likely this bond will be broken when the Spawn grows to a sufficient size. There are rumours that that the followers of Coot were preparing for the seeds of the Egg of Coot to be spread throughout the world.

Thanks to Rafael and others for suggestions and input on this one.

Sources
http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=37535
http://blackmoor.mystara.us/Coot.html
http://mmrpg.zeitgeistgames.com/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&t=151
http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/bb/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=278&p=27385&hilit=Coot#p27385








Havard

Sunday, October 11, 2009

THE GAZETTEER OF BLACKMOOR



I will no doubt be talking more about the official Blackmoor products (old and new) later in this blog, but today I would like to draw attention to an unofficial product: The Gazetteer of Blackmoor, by David Ross (aka Zimriel). The author (though he calls himself an editor) has done an amazing job going through the material published for Blackmoor in the 70s and 80s. Ross managed to incorporate material, not only from the First Fantasy Campaign and the DA Modules, but also the more obscure material like the adventure Garbage Pits of Despair and the information from the Domesday Book.

The style of writing is unique in terms of fan RPG products:

I (David Ross) "wrote" the gazetteer... in a very, very technical sense. My aim was to clarify what was really the work of Dave Arneson (1970-1987) and, to a much lesser extent, Dave Ritchie (1986-7); I saw my role as an editor. This ZIP has 13 files (12 RTF's, one XLS) of the history and geography of the world's oldest Role-Playing fantasy world. You will still need the DA series in order to play; there are no warez'ed maps or modules here.
-David Ross(http://pages.sbcglobal.net/zimriel/Blackmoor/)


Ross is not exaggerating. The gazetteer is written in a highly academic style and is extremely well researched. This makes it challenging to read if you aren't already familiar with Blackmoor, but also highly valuable since it doesnt deviate from Arneson's intentions. Ross includes his own speculation and analysis, but is always clear on what comes from Arneson and which conclusions are his own.

The files are highly recommended for any fan of Blackmoor. Rumour has it that the ZGG staff adviced their freelance authors to read through the gazetteer before making submissions for the 3E line. If you haven't already, go over to Blackmoor - Home of the Ancients and download it now! :)






Havard